Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Grimm tale for grown-ups

By Meredith Deliso

This is musical theater for people who don’t like musical theater.

In a new production based on the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale, “Hansel and Gretel,” the German siblings get a modern American retelling, with an indie rock score and Lynchian film and dance.

“Neither one of us likes musical theater that much,” said Carly Howard, who runs Sparrowtree Theatre Company with her husband, Chad. “It’s different musical theater — there’s dance in it, the film sections are more scary, and influenced by David Lynch and Tim Burton.”

The production, which opens Sept. 16, follows Hansel and Gretel years after they’ve left childhood and are coping with their unusual childhood. (For those of you who are a little foggy on your fairy tales, the two titular siblings are abandoned by their stepmother in the woods during a famine, only to be “rescued” by a cannibalistic witch before escaping, returning to their father and living “happily ever after.”)

Things aren’t so happily ever after in the Howards’ reimagining, which begins with the siblings returning home for their father’s funeral and having to confront their past.

“They had a really traumatic childhood if you really think about what happened to them,” said Carly, who stars as Gretel. “We’re seeing how they’re still haunted by this witch figure that was in their lives.”

Carly also wrote the music for the production.

“My favorite singer songwriter is Beirut, I was really inspired by the instruments he uses in his songs,” said Carly, who’s recruited a band comprised of a glockenspiel, tambourine, accordion, cello and guitar to play her music. “That’s the feeling I really wanted for this show — a traveling, Eastern European feel.”

Revisiting the fairy tale as grown-ups themselves, the husband-wife pair also look to delve deeper into the story’s themes.

“One of the biggest themes is the difference between what you want to come true and what actually does come true,” said Chad, who’s directing. “As kids, you have the whole world imagined, that everything’s going to turn out for the best.”

Here, though, things are decidedly more Grimm. As they should be.

“Hansel & Gretel” at 17 Frost (17 Frost St. at Union Avenue in Williamsburg, no phone), Sept. 16-25, Thursday-Sunday at 8 pm. Tickets $15. For info, visit


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